The Tokyo Olympics will be one to remember for three South Sudanese-born athletes representing the refugee Olympic team. These athletes have not only reached the world stage, but have been offered the opportunity to safely settle in a new country across the world.
These three athletes had to overcome hurdles that most Olympians would never face. After fleeing South Sudan when they were younger, they were moved to Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp, where they began running.
“I feel so great … I will study in Canada,” track athlete Paulo Amotun Lokoro said to CBC reporters after finishing his heat of the men’s 1,500m.
Lokoro will study at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ont., alongside two of the 29 athletes representing the refugee team at the Games. Lokoro competes as a member of the refugee Olympic Team, a team of athletes who fled hardship, violence and uncertainty in their home country to start a new life through sport elsewhere.
The refugee program at the Games is a partnership between the United Nations’ refugee agency (UNHCR) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), allowing athletes to compete in sport from countries where they wouldn’t have the opportunity.
According to the CBC article, Canada is the first country to adopt this refugee program for those holding academic and athletic accomplishments.
Joining Lokoro on a flight to Canada after the Olympics, is South Sudanese 800m runners Nathike Lokonyen and James Nyang Chiengjiek. These three athletes will obtain permanent resident status in Ontario and potentially, one day, gain Canadian citizenship in line with their academic and athletic accomplishments.
These three athletes hope to show other refugees that there are opportunities in this world to do anything, no matter what obstacles you may have faced in the past.